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Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton reacts in the parc ferme after taking pole position in the qualifying session of the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Jeddah. Image Credit: AFP

Jeddah: Lewis Hamilton snatched pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix yesterday as championship leader Max Verstappen smashed into a wall and could only manage third place.

Verstappen’s hopes were extinguished when his Red Bull speared into the barriers at the exit of the last bend on his final flying lap on the tight, unforgiving Jeddah street circuit just as he appeared poised to unseat his rival.

“It was terrible,” said a shaken but unhurt Verstappen.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was second and will share the front row today.

“What a tough track this is,” said Hamilton after a lap of 1min 27.511sec and who remains on course for a record eighth world title.

“It’s incredibly technical and complex. It’s amazing what they have built, the speed, it’s phenomenal.

Really proud

“We were quick through practice but particularly FP3 and qualifying, we were struggling with the pace and the tyres, so for us to get a one-two, really proud of Valtteri and the team. It’s a great result.

“Given where we were, I’m grateful for what we have got today.”

For Hamilton, who has cut Verstappen’s championship lead with successive wins in Brazil and Qatar, it was a fifth pole of the season and 103rd of his career.

Verstappen, who has an eight-point lead over Hamilton with just two races left, can claim his first world title today if he wins the race and Hamilton finishes outside the top six.

If not, the 2021 title battle will go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi next weekend.

“I don’t really understand what happened (on the final flying lap). I locked up a bit,” Verstappen.

“It was terrible but in general, it was a good qualifying. It was a bit hard to switch on the tyres because it’s a street circuit but I knew the pace was there.”